Comic books

Comic books I judged by their covers (or their titles)

Robespierre L. Bolivar

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

Comic books I judged by their covers (or their titles)

Photo from Robespierre L. Bolivar

'There is just something about a well-thought-out title that immediately grabs your attention'

I admit, I’ve been guilty of judging a comic book by its cover.

Actually, to be more precise, I judged by its title. 

There is just something about a well-thought-out title that immediately grabs your attention. The title is the comic book’s figurative handshake.  Combined with striking cover art, the title goes a long way in convincing you to do a double-take at the bookstore shelf – or in the case of internet shopping, to stop scrolling – long enough so you can read the synopsis or flip through a few pages.  

When the title is prosaic or downright lazy (and there are many of these, too), you are much more likely to pass it up. 

And though there are times the comic book may not live up to the hype the title creates, there are an equal, if not greater, amount of times that they do.

Here are the most remarkable titles I’ve encountered these past few months – titles which piqued my interest enough, allowing me to discover remarkable comic books that I may not have otherwise noticed. 

Something Is Killing the Children (Boom! Studios)

Werner Dell’Edera and Miquel Muerto’s visceral and unsettlingly sparse art enhances the grim but unputdownable story penned by James Tynion IV in Something is Killing the Children.

Judging from just the title, the story seems sufficiently straightforward. A disturbing wave of cases of children who go missing or who meet gruesome deaths sweep through several small towns in the United States.  

Enter Erica Slaughter. She is a monster hunter and a card-carrying member of an Order that traces its lineage back to St. George, the 5th century warrior-saint and dragon-slayer. Erica is sent by the Order to hunt down the monster which is killing these children. The known reported case was in Archer’s Peak, Wisconsin.

But there is one catch: aside from children and Erica, none of the adults see the monsters or believe they even exist. Who in his right mind thinks monsters exist anyway? The police department’s primary suspect in the murders is a serial killer. And Erica, the mysterious stranger from out-of-town, seems to fit this bill.

She arouses strong suspicion when she arrives at Archer’s Peak. After all, she kept asking peculiar questions about the Archer’s Peak cases, had two machetes in her backpack, and was last seen going into the woods where the children disappeared, hauling a shopping cart full of gardening shears, knives, and a chainsaw.

By the end of the first story arc in issue #5, we know without a shadow of a doubt what is killing the children. And we are emboldened by Erica’s uncanny ability to hunt down and kill these monsters.

This is small comfort, however, since we discover that things are not as straightforward as they seem. What caused the surge in monster attacks? Is Archer’s Peak just a prelude to a larger attack? What is the truth behind Erica Slaughter and the shadowy Order of St. George?  

Each succeeding issue raises the stakes for both Erica and the children of Archer’s Peak in this critically-acclaimed, immersive, and compelling read.  Nominated for a 2020 Eisner Award for Best New Series, Something is Killing the Children is haunting and extraordinary.  It comes to no surprise that what began as a 5-issue mini-series expanded into an ongoing title in response to public clamor.  

If you missed out on the single issues, the trade paperback for volume 1 (issues 1 through 5) was just released.  Volume 2 (issues 6 through 10) came out in November.

Basketful of Heads (DC/Hill House Comics)

The title says it all. A basket with a lot of heads inside. But what kind of heads are these? What are they doing there? Who put them there?

Of course, the enigmatic cover art, of a cloaked woman holding an axe, might have already tipped you off as to what this comic book is about.

Basketful of Heads is part of a line of horror-themed titles under DC’s Black Label for mature readers, curated by Joe Hill, horror master Stephen King’s son.  

Joe Hill is himself an Eisner Award-winning (for Locke & Key, now a popular Netflix series) acclaimed horror writer, and this is in full view in Basketful of Heads, which he himself wrote. Complemented by the vintage comic book-inspired art of LEOMACS and Dave Stewart, this is a fast-paced and layered tale of corruption and deception that experiments with story-telling techniques.  

While on vacation, June Branch is trapped by an unseasonal, violent storm on Brody Island, off the coast of Maine with her boyfriend Liam, who is working part-time as the island’s Sheriff’s assistant. A group of recently-escaped convicts kidnap Liam and soon comes after June.  

But they are in for an unexpected and deadly resistance. While hiding out in the Sheriff’s house, June arms herself with a cursed Viking axe. She is at first unaware that the axe is cursed, but this soon becomes evident due to the ease at which she is able to relieve each convict of his head and the terrifying way the disembodied heads retain the ability to speak.  

Before long, June has a basketful of human heads, each of whom has a malevolent tale to tell. In order to unravel the mystery and stay alive, June needs to uncover whether these tales are part of the truth, are self-absolving confessions, or cunning trickery meant to lure her into a trap.

Basketful of Heads is an ingenious take on the whodunit. The comic book uses creative narrative structure to ensure that neither June nor the reader is in full possession of the facts. We follow June every step of the way, piecing the puzzle along with her. And we are surprised by the twists and turns as much as our axe-wielding heroine.

The hardcover collecting all 7 issues of Basketful of Heads was released in early September.

These Savage Shores (Vault Comics)

This book is as exquisite as its title. Written by Ram V, with art by Sumit Kumar and Vittorio Astone, These Savage Shores is a masterclass in creating a comic book classic.  

Poetic language coalesces with haunting, textured art to tell an engrossing and ambitious tale set against the backdrop of the Anglo-Mysore Wars in the 18th century.  Though epic in scope, These Savage Shores provides an intimate portrait of love, loyalty, betrayal, and evil told mainly through the eyes of star-crossed lovers Bishar and Kori, the fanatical vampire-hunter Zachariah, and in the epistolary style reminiscent of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

These Savage Shores is both history and allegory. 18th century India and England come alive in story and art. Ram V and Sumit Kumar painstakingly and vividly recreate the time period, from the landscape, costumes, rituals, and personalities, including a historically-accurate depiction of Hyder Ali, Sultan, and ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore. They set the stage for the defining battles of the Anglo-Mysore Wars and provide keen insight into the politics of the day.

The tale is also a poignant allegory of English colonial abuse in India. A vampire coven journeys from London to the subcontinent via East India Company ships to avenge one of its kind who was killed after attempting to victimize the local populace.  They discover soon enough that in India, there are beings more ancient and powerful than vampires, and they do not take kindly to those who threaten their home.  

For in These Savage Shores, “the days are scorched and long, and the nights are full of teeth.”

The trade and hardcover collecting all 5 issues of These Savage Shores was published in November 2019.

One thing you will probably notice is the fact that all of these books are horror-themed. I do not mean to imply that intriguing titles are the exclusive domain of horror comic books — not by a long-shot. Take King of Nowhere, Wicked Things, We Only Find Them When They’re Dead, or Family Tree for instance, none of which are straight-up horror (though some would fit nicely in a Twilight Zone episode).

Mind you, intriguing titles are not a guarantee of a great comic book, nor should comic books be judged solely by their titles. There have been times when I bought books based exclusively on the title and cover art but found the story lacking or difficult to sink my teeth into. 

Then there are remarkable comic books whose titles may not be all that exciting. Comic book titles have been hit-and-miss. 

For every Youngblood, Bloodstrike, Deathblow, Secret (Anything) and every other comic book title obsessed with the word blood, death, or secret, you have creative, compelling, and evocative titles like Marvel’s House of M and Civil War, Joker: Killer Smile, Once and Future and Little Bird: Fight for Elder’s Hope.

At the end of the day, titles do not necessarily make the book. But from my personal experience, great titles make me take a second look. And for a long-time comic book fan in search of new reads, that can make a world of difference. –

Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.

Summarize this article with AI

How does this make you feel?

Download the Rappler App!